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Lesley Gore
Lesley Gore.jpg
Gore in 1964
Lesley Sue Goldstein

(1946-05-02)May 2, 1946
New York City, U.S.
Died February 16, 2015(2015-02-16) (aged 68)
New York City, U.S.
Education Sarah Lawrence College
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
  • activist
Years active 1963–2014
Notable work
"It's My Party"
  • Lois Sasson
  • (1982–2015; Gore's death)
  • Michael Gore (brother)
  • Alan Dean Foster (cousin)
  • Howie Horwitz (uncle)
Musical career
Instruments Vocals

Lesley Sue Goldstein (May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015), known professionally as Lesley Gore, was an American singer, songwriter, actress, and activist. At the age of 16, she recorded the pop hit "It's My Party", a US number one in 1963. She followed it up with ten further Billboard top 40 hits including "Judy's Turn to Cry" and "You Don't Own Me".

Gore later worked as an actress and television personality. She composed songs with her brother Michael Gore for the 1980 film Fame, for which he won an Academy Award. She hosted several editions of the LGBT-oriented public television show, In the Life, on American TV in the 2000s.

Early life

Gore was born Lesley Sue Goldstein in Brooklyn, New York City, into a middle-class Jewish family. The daughter of Leo Goldstein and Ronny Gore, her father was the owner of Peter Pan, a children's swimwear and underwear manufacturer, and later became a leading brand licensing agent in the apparel industry. She was raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, and attended the Dwight School for Girls in nearby Englewood. She also attended Sarah Lawrence College.


1963–1979: Commercial success

When she recorded her version of "It's My Party" with Quincy Jones in 1963, she was a junior in high school. It became a number-one, nationwide hit. Gore's version was certified as a Gold record. It also marked the beginning of a time when fans would show up on her front lawn.

"It's My Party" was followed by many other hits for Gore, including the sequel, "Judy's Turn to Cry" (US number five); "She's a Fool" (US number five); the feminist-themed million-selling "You Don't Own Me", which held at number two for three weeks behind the Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand"; "That's the Way Boys Are" (US No. 12); "Maybe I Know" (US No. 14/UK No. 20); "Look of Love" (US No. 27); and "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" (US number 13), which she sang during a bus scene from the 1965 movie, Ski Party. In 1965, she also appeared in the beach party film The Girls on the Beach in which she performed three songs: "Leave Me Alone", "It's Gotta Be You", and "I Don't Want to Be a Loser".

Gore was given first shot at recording "A Groovy Kind of Love" by songwriters Carole Bayer and Toni Wine with a melody borrowed from a sonatina by Muzio Clementi, but Shelby Singleton, a producer for Mercury subsidiary Smash Records, refused to let Gore record a song with the word "groovy" in its lyrics. The Mindbenders went on to record it, and it reached number two on the Billboard charts.

Gore recorded composer Marvin Hamlisch's first hit composition, "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows", on May 21, 1963, while "It's My Party" was climbing the charts. Her record producer from 1963 to 1965 was Quincy Jones. Jones's dentist was Marvin Hamlisch's uncle, and Hamlisch asked his uncle to convey several songs to Jones. "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows" was released on the LP Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts, but did not surface as a single until June 1965. Hamlisch composed three other Gore associated songs: "California Nights", "That's the Way the Ball Bounces" and "One by One". "That's the Way the Ball Bounces" was recorded September 21, 1963, at A&R Studios in New York; it was released as the B-side of "That's the Way Boys Are" and appeared on the LP Boys Boys Boys. "One by One" was an unreleased track recorded on July 31, 1969, in New York and produced by Paul Leka; it first appeared on the Bear Family five-CD anthology of Gore's Mercury work entitled It's My Party (1994).

Gore was one of the featured performers in the T.A.M.I. Show concert film, which was recorded and released in 1964 by American International Pictures, and placed in the National Film Registry in 2006. Gore had one of the longest sets in the film, performing six songs, including "It's My Party", "You Don't Own Me", and "Judy's Turn to Cry".

Gore performed on two consecutive episodes of the Batman television series (January 19 and 25, 1967), in which she guest-starred as Pussycat, one of Catwoman's minions. In the January 19 episode "That Darn Catwoman", she lip-synched to the Bob Crewe-produced "California Nights", and in the January 25 episode "Scat! Darn Catwoman", she lip-synched to "Maybe Now". "California Nights", which Gore recorded for her 1967 album of the same name, returned her to the top twenty of the Hot 100. The single peaked at number 16 in March 1967 (14 weeks on the chart). It was her first top-40 hit since "My Town, My Guy and Me" in late 1965 and her first top-20 since "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows". Gore also performed "It's My Party" and "We Know We're in Love" ten months earlier on the final episode of The Donna Reed Show, which aired on March 19, 1966.

After high school, while continuing to make appearances as a singer, Gore attended Sarah Lawrence College, studying English and American literature. At college, folk music was popularly lauded as "chic", whereas pop music was often derided as "uncool". "Had I been tall with blonde hair, had I been Mary Travers, I would have gotten along fine." She graduated in 1968.

Gore signed a contract with Mercury Records with a five-year term that carried her obligations to the company through the spring of 1968. Her last big hit had been 12 months prior to this time, but Mercury still saw promise in her as an artist and believed that one of her singles would make it, as they had in the past. They offered a one-year extension on the initial contract, and Gore was formally contracted to Mercury for a sixth year. During this time, "He Gives Me Love (La La La)", a single release based on a Eurovision Song Contest winner, rose to number 96 on the Music Business charts, while bubbling under the Hot 100 in Billboard. Mercury took out a full-page ad in the trades to support the single, but its airplay was spotty, becoming a hit in only a few major markets. She was then paired with the successful soul producers Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Thom Bell for two singles that took her into the "soul" genre: "I'll Be Standing By" and "Take Good Care (Of My Heart)". These songs did not fit the image Mercury had crafted for her, and the singles were not played. Her contract with Mercury ended after the release of "98.6/Lazy Day" and "Wedding Bell Blues" failed to make headway on the charts.

In 1970, she signed with Crewe Records and was reunited with producer Bob Crewe, who had produced her album California Nights. Her first release under the label, "Why Doesn't Love Make Me Happy", was a moderate hit on the Adult Contemporary chart, but none of her other singles would prove to be successful. She left Crewe Records in 1971 when the label went bankrupt.

In 1972, Gore signed with MoWest Records, a subsidiary of Motown, and in July of that year released her first studio album in five years, Someplace Else Now. All of the songs were either written or co-written by Gore, with collaborators Ellen Weston and her brother Michael. Due to the failure of the album's sole single, "She Said That", along with poor promotion, Someplace Else Now died on the shelf.

1980–2014: As composer

Gore composed songs for the soundtrack of the 1980 film Fame, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for "Out Here on My Own", written with her brother Michael. Michael won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the theme song of the same film. Gore played concerts and appeared on television throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Gore co-wrote a song, "My Secret Love", for the 1996 film Grace of My Heart. The film includes a subplot about a young singer named Kelly Porter, who is based in part on Gore and is played by Bridget Fonda. The character, who is a closeted lesbian, performs "My Secret Love" in the film.

In 2005, Gore recorded Ever Since (her first album of new material since Love Me By Name in 1976), with producer/songwriter Blake Morgan, with the label Engine Company Records. The album received favorable reviews from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Billboard, and other national press. The album also included a revised version of "You Don't Own Me", about which the New York Daily News wrote: "In Lesley Gore's new version of 'You Don't Own Me'—cut more than 40 years after its initial recording—she lends a pop classic new life." Gore commented: "Without the loud backing track, I could wring more meaning from the lyric". And: "It's a song that takes on new meaning every time you sing it."

Personal life

Beginning in 2003, Gore hosted several editions of the PBS television series In the Life, which focused on LGBTQ+ issues. In a 2005 interview with After Ellen, she stated she was a lesbian and had been in a relationship with luxury jewelry designer Lois Sasson since 1982. She had known about her attraction to women from the time she was 20 and stated that although the music business was "totally homophobic", she never felt she had to pretend she was straight. "I just kind of lived my life naturally and did what I wanted to do," she said. "I didn't avoid anything, I didn't put it in anybody's face."

Gore had been working on a memoir and a Broadway show based on her life when she died of lung cancer on February 16, 2015, at the NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, New York City, at the age of 68. At the time of her death, Gore and Sasson had been together for 33 years. They planned to be married in the summer of 2015.

Her New York Times obituary stated, "with songs like 'It’s My Party,' 'Judy’s Turn to Cry', and the indelibly defiant 1964 single 'You Don’t Own Me' — all recorded before she was 18 — Gore made herself the voice of teenaged girls aggrieved by fickle boyfriends, moving quickly from tearful self-pity to fierce self-assertion."

Awards and recognition

In 1964, "It's My Party" was nominated for a Grammy Award for rock-and-roll recording.

National Public Radio named Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts, Gore's second album, as forebearer of one of the top 150 albums recorded by women. The album missed the official list (1964–present) because it was released in 1963. "She is a forebearer for her assertion of feminine power in pop, and her validation of a female perspective."

Lesley Gore’s papers were donated to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and became accessible to the public in 2022. Catalogued by the library and her partner Lois Sasson, it includes family photos, scrapbook pages, annotated music and lyrics, business files, an unfinished memoir, and sound and video recordings.


  • I'll Cry If I Want To (1963)
  • Lesley Gore Sings of Mixed-Up Hearts (1963)
  • Boys, Boys, Boys (1964)
  • Girl Talk (1964)
  • My Town, My Guy & Me (1965)
  • Lesley Gore Sings All About Love (1966)
  • Off and Running (1967, canceled)
  • California Nights (1967)
  • Magic Colors (1967, canceled)
  • Someplace Else Now (1972)
  • Love Me By Name (1976)
  • The Canvas Can Do Miracles (1982)
  • Ever Since (2005)
  • Magic Colors: The Lost Album (2011)



Year Film Role Notes
1964 The T.A.M.I Show Herself Documentary
1965 The Girls on the Beach Herself Sings "Leave Me Alone", "It's Gotta Be You" and "I Don't Wanna Be A Loser"
1965 Ski Party Herself Sings "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows"
1968 The Pied Piper of Astroworld Bo Peep Television film
1977 Good Old Days Herself Television film
1985 Good Time Rock 'n' Roll Herself Television documentary
1986 Deja View Herself
1988 Legendary Ladies of Rock & Roll Herself Television special
1990 Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones Herself Documentary
1991 Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll Herself Television documentary
1992 In the Life Herself Television documentary
1998 Quincy Jones... The First 50 Years Herself Television documentary
2000 Hollywood Rocks the Movies: The Early Years (1955–1970) Herself Television documentary
2003 Rock at Fifty Herself Television documentary
2008 An Evening with Quincy Jones Herself Television documentary
2008 Airplay: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio Herself Documentary


Year Name Role Notes
1963 Club 1270 Herself A teen-oriented dance-party television show on WXYZ-TV in Detroit ("1270" was a reference to the frequency of WXYZ-AM radio, a leading Top 40 station in the Detroit area at the time, now WXYT).
1963 The Keefe Brasselle Show Herself
1963 American Bandstand Herself Season 6, Episode 194, AB-1528: Lesley Gore – aired 5/30/63.
Thank Your Lucky Stars Herself Recurring guest; 2 episodes
The Ed Sullivan Show Herself Recurring guest; 4 episodes: Season 16, Episode 3 – Other guests: Tony Bennett, Frank Gorshin, Bob & Ray – aired 10/13/63; Season 17, Episode 18 – Other guests: Burt Lancaster, Mickey Rooney, Miriam Makeba, Shelley Berman – aired 1/31/65; Season 21, Episode 32 – Other guests: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Gwen Verdon; Season 22, Episode 30 – Other guests: Richie Havens, Moms Mabley, Stiller & Meara – aired 4/26/70.
New American Bandstand 1965 Herself Recurring guest; 3 episodes: Season 10, Episode 31 – Other guest: The Music Machine – aired 4/8/67; Season 10, Episode 4 – Other guest: ? (Question Mark) and the Mysterians – aired 10/1/66; Season 19, Episode 4 – aired 9/27/75.
1964 The Beat Room Herself
1964 The Lloyd Thaxton Show Herself Season 4, Episode 10 – aired September 28, 1964
1965 Fanfare Herself Season 1, Episode 7 – other guests: Tom Jones, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass – aired July 31, 1965
1965 Shindig! Herself Recurring guest; 2 episodes: Season 1, Episode 30 – Show 30 – April 7, 1965 – other guests: Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye, Larry Hovis, Martha and the Vandellas, Righteous Brothers

Season 2, Episode 5 – Show 56 – September 30, 1965 – other guests: Mickey Rooney (guest host), Major Lance, The Turtles

1965 Hollywood A Go-Go Herself
Hullabaloo Herself Recurring guest; 3 episodes: Season 1, Episode 8 – Show #8 – Host: Trini Lopez – aired 3/2/65; Season 2, Episode 7 – Show#25 – Host: Peter Noone (of Herman's Hermits) – aired 11/1/65; Season 2, Episode 16 – Show #34 – Host: Roger Smith – aired 1/3/66; Season 2, Episode 30 – Show #48 – Host: Paul Anka – aired 4/11/66.
Merv Griffin Show Herself Recurring guest: 8 episodes: Season 2, Episode 76 – aired 8/23/65; Season 5, Episode 104 – aired 1/25/68; Season 5, Episode 157 – aired 4/9/68; Season 6, Episode 96 – aired 1/13/69; Season 6, Episode 154 – aired 4/3/69; Season 7, Episode 162 – aired 4/2/70; Season 7, Episode 239 – aired 7/16/70; Season 7, Episode 243 – aired 7/22/70.

Aired April 2, 1970

The Mike Douglas Show Herself Recurring guest; 13 episodes: The Mike Douglas Show Herself

Season 4: Episode 237 – aired 8/4/65, Season 5: Episode 47 – aired 11/9/65, Season 5, Episode 216 – aired 7/11/66, Season 6: Episode 16 – aired 9/26/66, Season 6: Episode 92 – aired 1/10/67, Season 6: Episode 176 – aired 5/8/67, Season 7: Episode 106 – aired 1/29/68, Season 7: Episode 201 – aired 6/10/68, Season 8: Episode 42 – aired 11/5/68, Season 8: Episode 150 – aired 4/4/69, Season 9: Episode 25 – – aired 10/3/69, Season 9: Episode 51 – aired 11/10/69, Season 9: Episode 136 – aired 3/9/70, Season 10: Episode 118 – aired 2/17/71

1965 Shivaree Herself Season 2, Episode 16 – Show #48 0 aired 12/25/658.
1966 The Andy Williams Show Herself Season 5, Episode 10 – aired November 13, 1966.
1966 The Donna Reed Show Herself Season 8, Episode 27: "By-Line—Jeff Stone" – aired 3/19/66
1966 Where the Action Is Herself Season 6, Episode 237 – aired 9/10/66, other guests: The Four Tops
1967 The Match Game Herself Season 6, Episode 6 – Lesley Gore & Soupy Sales – aired 10/9/67
1967 Batman Pussycat Recurring role; 2 episodes: Season 2 Episodes 40 – That Darn Catwoman – aired 1/19/67; Season 2, Episode 41 – Scat! Darn Catwoman – aired 1/25/67.
1967 Dream Girl of '67 Herself Recurring role; 5 episodes
1967 Malibu U Herself Season 1, Episode 4 – aired 8/11/67 – Other guests include The Turtles and Lou Rawls
1967 Binnen en Buiten Herself
The Joey Bishop Show Herself Recurring guest; 3 episodes: Season 1, Episode 78 – aired 8/2/67; Season 2, Episode 122 – aired 3/8/68; Season 2, Episode 128 – aired 3/18/68.
1968 Happening '68 Herself Rock music series on the ABC network. It aired Saturday afternoons following American Bandstand. Happening aired Mon through Fri from 7/15/68-10/25/68.
1968 What's My Line? Herself Mystery guest; Season 1, Episode 131 – aired 1/31/1968
Della Herself Recurring guest; 2 episodes: Season 1, Episode 14 – aired 6/26/69; Season 1, Episode 154 – aired 1/13/70.
1970 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson Herself Season 8, Episode 41 700701 – aired 7/1/70.
The Rolf Harris Show Herself Recurring guest; 2 episodes
1970 The David Frost Show Herself Recurring guest; 2 episodes – Season 2, Episode 104 – aired January 22, 1970; Season 3, Episode 59 – aired December 17, 1970.
1970 The Dick Cavett Show Herself Season 5, Episode 55 – aired January 22, 1970.
1971 The Virginia Graham Show Herself
1975–76 The Midnight Special Herself Guest host – Season 5, Episode 2 – aired 9/24/76. Guest on 2 episodes: Season 3, Episode 34 – Host: Chubby Checker; Season 4, Episode 21 – Host: David Brenner, Other guest: Fleetwood Mac
1976 Dinah! Herself Season 2, Episode 167 – aired May 24, 1976
1977 Sha Na Na Herself
1977 $20,000 Pyramid Herself $20,000 Pyramid – Season 6, Episode 6 – Soupy Sales & 5 female stars – aired 10/10/77
1970 Our Time Herself
1982–83 All My Children June Gordan A music publicist for 6 episodes; performed the song "Easy to Say, Hard to Do" which was written for the show
1998 Murphy Brown Herself Episode: Season 10 Episode 16: "Opus One" Frank recreates American Bandstand for Murphy's 50th birthday; guests Dick Clark; Fabian; Lesley Gore; Chubby Checker; Sally Field.
1998 A Capitol Fourth Herself Lesley performed in concert for the annual "A Capitol Fourth" July 4 celebration in Washington. The show was nationally televised by PBS on the evening of July 4, 1998. (Frank Dixon original source on this).
2001 Walk on By: The Story of Popular Song Herself Episode: "Producer Pop"
2001 Biography Herself Episode: "Lesley Gore: 'It's Her Party'"
2002 Hollywood Squares Herself Recurring guest; 2 episodes
2005 Party Planner with David Tutera Herself Episode: "Broadway Legend's Soiree"
2006 In the Life Herself Season 1, Episode 116 on Logo Borders – aired 1/1/06
2007 TV Land Confidential Herself Episode: "Music"
Unknown Days of Our Lives Unknown
Unknown Gay USA Unknown

See also

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